In February 2018 TIME magazine published “9 Books to Read for Black History Month, According to Scholars.”
Listed along with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America was an unpublished doctoral thesis written at Duke University in 1986 by Julius S. Scott, who later became a University of Michigan faculty member in History and Afroamerican and African Studies. In the article, Harvard University’s Vincent Brown likened Dr. Scott’s thesis to “an underground mix-tape.”
Since then, Dr. Scott’s work has gone decidedly above ground. In November, a Chronicle of Higher Education feature highlighted the “three-decade publication saga” that led to the release of The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution by Verso later that month. The first print run has already sold out, and a second one is in the works.
“It has been fascinating to re-read this landmark study of the movement of people and ideas in the greater Caribbean, now between hard covers. New ideas emerge, footnotes jump up from the page, and familiar stories take on added depth,” said Rebecca J. Scott, Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law at U-M.
In early January, a session at the American Historical Association annual meeting honored Dr. Scott’s work, with panelists reflecting upon how it “crucially shaped research and interpretation in the then-emergent field of Atlantic Studies and in the long-standing field of African American history.”
“Julius Scott’s own closing remarks, in which he declared himself ‘the luckiest guy in the room,’ were a measure of his grace in the presence of overwhelming praise and appreciation,” said Professor Rebecca Scott.
Meanwhile, in H-Net’s H-Haiti network, scholars around the world are contributing to a forum dedicated to the book. The posts reveal the impact of Dr. Scott’s work and his generosity as a scholar.
“For me, the insights in Julius Scott’s The Common Wind are intertwined with those he offered in conversations we had over the years of my graduate training at the University of Michigan,” wrote Laurent Dubois (PhD 1998), now a professor at Duke University.
“The reason his work has had such a profound influence on so many, including me, is because Scott offered a way of seeing the world of the Haitian Revolution–and of listening in on it–in a fashion that was quite fittingly revolutionary.”